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Americans Are Seriously Sick 1519

Posted by Zonk
from the cough-hack dept.
jd writes "A study by US and British researchers on frequency of illnesses shows that even when you compare like groups in the US and the UK, people in the US are considerably sicker than their counterparts in the UK. This is after factors such as age, race, income, education and gender were taken into consideration. The most startling conclusion was that although the richest Americans were better off than the poorest Americans, they did no better (health-wise) than the poorest of the English. Previous studies of the entire population had shown similar results, with America placing around 25th amongst industrialized countries on chronic disease prevention, but it had been assumed that minorities and economics were skewing the results. This study suggests that maybe that isn't the case."
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Americans Are Seriously Sick

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  • Answer is easy. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:27AM (#15252042) Homepage Journal
    Have a look at table 8 in this report [eurofound.ie] on industrial relations.
    Statutory minimum annual leave plus public holidays

    UK: 28 days (four weeks + public holidays)
    US: 10 days (0 weeks + public holidays)
    US's work culture of long working days, unpaid overtime & too few holidays is killing you. Add to that the stress of the burden of health care falling on individuals and you have the sort of mess tfa talks about.

    No doubt many other people are going to write in talking about "fat americans" being the problem - and its true that nutrition in America is a serious problem, but the comparison is to England, [bbc.co.uk] so not the cause of the differences.

    Personally, I work on average 8 months a year and spend the rest of the time travelling - I am rarely stressed and almost never sick.
    • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by benbean (8595) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:34AM (#15252062)
      Intelligent first post. Bravo sir.

      I wholeheartedly agree. Having worked for 10 years in the US and now happily back in the UK, the lack of meaningful time off is stressful and damaging. And don't get me started on the unpaid overtime culture in the US that appears to be protected by statute - in IT anyway.
    • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mowph (642278) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:52AM (#15252151)
      US's work culture of long working days, unpaid overtime & too few holidays is killing you.

      Japan has the same minimum leave policy (10 days + stats), but on top of that, the leave policies are rarely enforced. It would normally be seen as selfish and inconsiderate of one's coworkers to actually use all of your leave, anyway. In many cases, company employees work completely unpaid "service overtime" out of obligation. Still, Japan is among the healthiest and longest-lived countries in the world.

      I'd say there must be more to the picture. Like any complex system, the health of a nation probably can't be pinned on one single factor.

      • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nagora (177841)
        Still, Japan is among the healthiest and longest-lived countries in the world.

        Wanna talk suicide rates?

        TWW

      • As onyone who has worked in Japan will tell you, even though work days are long, they don't actually work very much.

        However, in The States they really make people work hard, especially managers. And there are always PLENTY of managers in the work place.

        I guess it is because managers can legally be made to work crazy hours with no compensation.
      • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by namekuseijin (604504) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:40AM (#15252363)
        "Japan is among the healthiest and longest-lived countries in the world."

        i guess a diet of fish and rice and ninja skills really pay off vs bacon and eggs and TV remote skills...
      • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lord Azrael (472884) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:13AM (#15252487)
        you are right that there belongs more to the picture that Japan belongs to the healthiest and longest-lived countries in the world although the average working time might is much higher than in most of the other industrial countries.

        the other factor which comes in here which benefits the japanese is the way they eat or better, what they eat. A lot of fish, a lot of vegetables, green tea... To sum it up: they eat little fat and healthier stuff.

        compare this to USA or UK, where fast food dominates what people eat, where coffee and coke often is the only stuff people drink the whole day.

        other thing: the majority of my american coworkers here never go to doctors. they take pills and drugs the whole day. instead of changing their way of life, calming down, solving their personal problems, eating better stuff (!) they try to cure everything with drugs, drink coke the whole day, eat a kilo of steak every day and then complain that they suffer from heartburn and again take pills against heartburn ....

        of course this is not representative, might be strange co-workers here. but on the other hand i noticed something the last time i was in new york when i watched TV ads: i have never travelled to a country where there are dozens of tv ads every hour for products to reduce heartburn - this confirms my observation. instead of eating different stuff people buy these drugs. this is obviosuly not the right solution. in the long run this affects your health.
    • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RedWizzard (192002)
      US's work culture of long working days, unpaid overtime & too few holidays is killing you.
      But TFA implies a difference across the board, not just in among workers. If that is what the study shows then it's difficult to see the work culture as the primary cause.
    • by Bombula (670389) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:31AM (#15252331)
      Mod parent up.

      Spot on, poster. One point you missed though: despite the long hours and few vacation days in the US, there are more Americans in poverty now in real terms than at any time since the Great Depression. For tens of millions of Americans, despite all the work they are still dirt poor. This is for several reasons:

      - Minimum wage is not tied to any meaningful cost of living index.

      - The official 'Poverty Line' is similarly not based on any meaningful cost of living index (it is uselessly taken as 3 times the cost of food; food is dramatically cheaper now than even 25 years ago, and much less healthy, so this metric is positively retarded).

      - Rent on property has gone sky high as the economy has grown, meaning the cost of even the crappiest housing is essentially unaffordable for a minimum wage worker.

      And lastly, Employers are becoming increasingly exploitative, harkening back to 19th Century labor practices. Labor is less organized now and unions are weaker (where is a Wal Mart workers union for their 900,000 employees?). With so-called 'unskilled' jobs, employers encourage high turnover so they don't have to give pay increases with all sorts of draconian practices.

      On this last point, culpability falls largely on the government. Without regulation, unbridled capitalism is taken America steadily in the direction of Asian sweatshops. Supply and demand in the labor market defies all textbook economic logic because workers have no time to shop around for the best jobs, or to switch jobs when a better one becomes available and because they have no access to information about what other jobs might be available. Sure, you might get a dollar an hour more somewhere else, but if they withhold the first weeks' pay there, you can never switch because you won't ever be able to pay the rent or buy food if you miss a week's wages. Millions of people are that close to the edge. And so without rules - without government regulation - keeping companies from fucking low-wage workers, guess what? Those workers get fucked.

      So the point you missed is that millions of Americans are in a state of profound poverty. Sure, the US has pretty good general public infrastructure - roads, water, electricity - so it doesn't seem like poor people are living in the same poverty and desperation that exists in places like India, but in many instances they are. The toll on a person's health from the stress of poverty alone probably outweighs the toll of long working hours and few vacations. Bill Gates works 80-hour weeks, so I hear. He probably doesn't have the kind of stress-related health problems that a single mother holding down two jobs has, even if she only works a 60 hour week.

      Be sure to read Nickel and Dimed for more information about the impossibility of surviving in America on minimum wage.

    • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Young Master Ploppy (729877) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:32AM (#15252333) Homepage Journal

      Walking. Seriously!

      In British cities, we generally do a lot of walking compared to US cities. I once asked *in the visitor's centre* for directions to the public library in a US city. After getting a load of driving directions, when I told them I didn't have a car, the woman behind the counter looked horrified, and was stunned into disbelieving silence for several seconds, before giving the classic response :

      "Well in that case, I don't think you can get there from here..."

      Turns out it was only a ten-minute walk away. And virtually every car I passed on the way honked at me. Why? Because they thought I was a bum - after all, only bums don't have cars, right?

      I'm not saying this is true of every US city - certainly people seem to walk in New York, for example - but by way of contrast, I live in London and I probably do about an hour of brisk walking every day just getting between tube stations, the office, and my home. That's not counting actual "exercise time", that's just getting about day-to-day. Even when I used to work in the northern cities like Leeds and Stockton-on-Tees, which don't have the Tube, I still did about an hour walking around at lunchtime.

      I'm not trying to troll here, but I think this picture says a lot : Only In America [msjc.net].

      • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fabs64 (657132) <beaufabry+slashdot,org&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:30AM (#15252868)
        Just thought I'd chip in by pointing out that we've all seen (and know without being told) that driving in any kind of traffic causes large amounts of stress, and generally stressed people are more ill than those that are laid-back.

        Ever wonder why country people, especially farmers and people who do physical work, always seem healthier?
        • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by graikor (127470) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @10:51AM (#15253880) Journal
          If I had mod points, you'd get an "Insightful".

          I can practically feel my blood pressure go up every time I have to drive near rush hour, since every other driver on the road is either an idiot or a maniac*. If I could ride a bicycle or use public transportation, I would consider it, but in Texas, it just ain't possible. I think the stress-relieving nature of the actual physical work also contributes to the lower stress levels - they go hand-in-hand.

          *: Idiot (n): Person driving slower than the speaker. Maniac (n): Person driving faster than the speaker.
      • by Dausha (546002) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @10:11AM (#15253593) Homepage
        "Turns out it was only a ten-minute walk away. And virtually every car I passed on the way honked at me. Why? Because they thought I was a bum - after all, only bums don't have cars, right?"

        No, they weren't honking at you because they thought you were a bum. They honked because they did not recognize you. Because they did not recognize you, they knew you were a _foreign_ visitor. So, they were trying to help you feel more welcome. I would not be surprised if some of them gave you the national one-finger salute as well.
    • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ooze (307871)
      Yep, in America the people exist for the economy. In Europe there is still more the view, that the economy should exist for the people (although it is dwindling). Actually in America everything exists for the economy. And when economy always has the highest priority, then people shouldn't wonder that everything else falls short. You know, such unimportant things like health, time for children, personal development, good food, a peaceful public climate, an ecosystem that can actually support life, a future .
    • It seems this is the only thread going today.

      Anyway, I thought I should mention a great essay of Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness [panarchy.org]. His argument takes the extreme view that we should only need to work for four hours a week. Empirically, the argument derives from the experience of Britain during the second world war when most of the productive capacity of the country was spent on maintaining the war. And we didn't starve.

      Of course, Russell is being a little toungue-in-cheek by calling his essa

    • Re:Answer is easy. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Peter Mork (951443) <Peter.Mork@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:08AM (#15252465) Homepage

      The answer is indeed simple: among industrial nations one of the most significant predictors of health is the gap between rich and poor. The larger this gap, the worse the health of both groups. It is not surprising that poor people have worse health, but it is interesting that riches don't buy better health. More information is available here [washington.edu], and here's a related editorial [washington.edu] from Newsweek.

      In short, the study looked at the following health factors: life expectancy, infant mortality, death rates, disability, quality of life, self-assessed health, happiness and well-being. The high-level summary from the linked article: "Populations whose income is below a threshold (about $5,000 - $10,000 in US per capita income) generally have poorer health. Increasing income in such societies leads to better health. Above the threshold, national health is not necessarily related to absolute income, but rather to the gap between rich and poor. Studies in the past 15 years found that where income gaps are smaller, health appears to be better."

      The researchers' hypothesis is that societies with a large gap between the rich and poor have a more hierarchical organization. Such an organization is based on coercion and resignation. More egalitarian societies do not engender the negative emotions needed to sustain a hierarchy.

      Perhaps what is most surprising is that despite the maturity of this research, it seems (at least to me) that very few people are aware of it.

  • Pies (Score:5, Funny)

    by Loquis (56476) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:28AM (#15252043)
    So who ate all the pies?
  • Duuuuuuuuh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:31AM (#15252049)
    Socialism == Medical

    US != Socialism

    HENCE

    Medical != US

    Sheesh.. when we'll we learn?
  • by RLiegh (247921) * on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:31AM (#15252050) Homepage Journal
    But at least we're not revolting!
  • by ndogg (158021) <`the.rhorn' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:32AM (#15252052) Homepage Journal
    A friend of mine who is typically an ardent democrat told a Democratic Party representative (who was asking her for money) told the representative that she'll give the Party money as soon as they get her universal healthcare.

    Perhaps she's being a little unreasonable, but then again, if the Democratic Party continues to be ineffective, and impotent, perhaps we should be looking towards a party that does have the courage to stand up to the Republicans and actually get things like universal healthcare into the running for issues.
    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:38AM (#15252078) Homepage

      Rick Mayes' Universal Coverage [amazon.com] is a good book to pick up if you are curious on why the U.S. is among the only first-world countries with no universal healthcare. It should be available in any good university library. Unfortunately, the book is quite a downer, and sees little solution to the bureaucratic mire that Medicare and Social Security have created. After reading this book, you'll have a strong desire to emigrate.

      Had President Clinton not appointed his wife over the issue just over a decade ago, we might have made some progress. Hillary has her talents, but she was so controversial that the entire matter of national healthcare became taboo for years afterward.

    • by Propagandhi (570791) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:53AM (#15252153) Journal
      According to TFA coverage isn't the issue here. The purpose of the study was to compare health across the board, not just of the working class or poor (who would benefit from a universal healthcare system) and it found that regardless of income Americans were less healthy than UKers. Which is bizarre, considering we (the US) are still the richest country in the world, and should therefore have the best top tier healthcare.. or at least one would think.

      At any rate, as cool as universal healthcare would be, TFA really isn't bringing that issue up. Rather, I think it alludes to the hire levels of stress or maybe more generally the unhealthy ways we Americans live. Universal Healthcare can't make you sleep 8 hours every night or eat all your vegetables, and I think that's really the point that should be driven home by the article... as Americans, we just aren't living healthily (and no amount of healthcare can make up for that.)
  • by ben0207 (845105) <ben,burton&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:35AM (#15252065) Homepage
    Whereas Canadians are "x-treme", and the French are "to the max"
  • Assumed by whom? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by famebait (450028) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:36AM (#15252068)
    America placing around 25th amongst industrialized countries on chronic disease prevention, but it had been assumed that minorities and economics were skewing the results.

    I really don't believe that was assumed by most public health experts, and certianly not ones outside the US. The US does not just have greater socioeconmic differences, but since thay have no proper pubic heathcare, those differences matter a lot more. And even if you belong to the group that can afford proper care, you still have to go get it; there is little follow-up by default. It would really be quite shocking if the US system resulted in high a level of public health as the more proactive systems found in western Europe. Now, I know that there are varying opinions on what are the responsibilities of society and of the individual, and I'm not going to go into that. But of there are effects. I assume that most of those against public healthcare accept those consquences as a fair price (for someone else) to pay, but if this result came as an unwelcome suprise, I would call that a tad naïve.
  • by jgdobak (119142) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:39AM (#15252085)
    ...but, working in the healthcare profession in the US, no one gets paid unless you're sick. Sadly, healthcare here is definitely for-profit. So of course we're all 'sick.'

    (Not a supporter of socialist programs in general, but healthcare is too important to be trusted to human greed.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:40AM (#15252091)
    Michael Moore is going to expose the rotten health care system in the USA in his new movie called Sicko:
    http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/message/index.ph p?id=193 [michaelmoore.com]

    The health insurance industry is a parasite the purpose of which is to interfere with your patient-doctor relationship and to deny your treatment.
  • Fast food (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PenisLands (930247) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:42AM (#15252108) Homepage Journal
    Maybe it's because of the fast food? I live in England and I eat pretty much entirely home cooked and prepared meals, except maybe apart from the odd sandwich from Sainsbury's.
    I recently went out to stay at a friends house for a weekend, and on the first day we ate McDonalds in the evening. The next day I was feeling pretty sick. All I ate about two burgers and some chicken nuggets.
    • Re:Fast food (Score:5, Insightful)

      by famebait (450028) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:58AM (#15252177)
      I don't buy that. The diet of low-income Britain is generally terrible. Chips with everything, with the "everything" part often being deep-fried too. And that combination being characterised as "proper food". Crisps and a chocolate bar considered an adequate meal for a kid. Last I was there, business at McDonalds seemed quite brisk in the UK as well.
      • To be fair, there are plenty of english meals that dont have chips. eg:

        fish and mushy peas (thats not that bad)
        mushy pea butties (that cant be that bad)
        meat pie butty (thats a bad one)

        there are plenty more, but bacon, eggs and black pudding doesn't really highlight my point.
  • free as in beer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lovebyte (81275) * <<moc.liamg> <ta> <0002etybevol>> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:44AM (#15252115) Homepage
    Let me quote this from the BBC article [bbc.co.uk]:
    Rates of smoking are similar in the US and England but alcohol consumption is higher in the UK.
    There you have it, folks, DRINK!

    (I am only half joking)
    • Re:free as in beer (Score:3, Insightful)

      by l3v1 (787564)
      Well, joke or not (mostly not), reasonable amounts of beer and wine can do good to most people's (i.e. who don't yet have some diseases like to liver, kidneys, blood pressure, etc.) helath. And yes, here in Europe we really have some really _fine_ beers and wines, thankfully.

  • Nationality (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:48AM (#15252138)

    The official nationality of people from the UK is British, not English. By referring to Brits as "English", you're pissing off a sizable number of people who are proud to be Scottish, Irish, Welsh, etc. Us English did some pretty nasty things to them in the past, so calling them "English" isn't exactly going to ingratiate yourself with them.

    By referring to people from the UK as British, you're still going to piss off some Irish, but at least you're correct in your terminology. Yes, British is the correct term to use for somebody from the UK, even if they aren't from Great Britain. References:

    Having read the article, I have no clue exactly which region of the world it is talking about, because it seems to use different regions as synonyms. It could be the UK, which is a country and member nation of the UN. It could be Great Britain, which is a geographical region within the UK comprised mainly of England, Wales and Scotland. Or it could be England, which is a region, home nation and constituent country of the UK, but which doesn't have its own government.

    If I had to guess, I'd say that they were talking about the UK, even though they don't use the word "UK" at all, instead opting for "British" and "England". I base this guess on years of experience with peopel from the USA getting it wrong and the sentence "Those dismal results are despite the fact that U.S. health care spending is double what England spends on each of its citizens." Hint: England spends nothing whatsoever on its citizens. The NHS in England is run by the UK government. It's the NHS in other parts of the UK that belong to their respective constituent countries - England actually has very little to call its own these days.

    England, Great Britain and the UK are three completely different things. Mix them up, and you piss people off. It's a bit like mixing up California with the USA with North America. You'd think somebody was pretty ignorant to do that, right?

    • Re:Nationality (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:16AM (#15252257) Journal
      The notion of Commonwealth seems to be abused too.

      I remember being rather shocked a year or so back when a writer that is a favourite of mine on ESPN.com described the Commonwealth Games as basically being a European-only Olympics.

      Well, that's utter rubbish, of course. Countries as geographically diverse as Canada, Australia, India and South Africa (and many, many more) are all in the Commonwealth. European nations outside of the UK, such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are not.

      Commonwealth has nothing to do with Europe but, to some people at least, the two seem to be interchangeable, which is very worrying.

      For anyone that's interested, the Commonwealth is made up of those nation states, territories and dependencies that were formally part of the British Empire that want to be in it, which is pretty much all former parts of the Empire bar a few exceptions, such as the USA and the Republic of Ireland.

      By the way, I'm from London and when asked for my nationality I opt for whatever's the most appropriate choice. In some cases, that'll be English but in others, such as when travelling abroad, it'll be British. But, as the parent poster has pointed out, they're definitely not interchangeable terms.
    • by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:20AM (#15252273) Homepage
      Those Texans will always keep fucking up their geography.
    • Re:Nationality (Score:3, Informative)

      > By referring to people from the UK as British,
      > you're still going to piss off some Irish

      Your going to piss off all of them. They are not British. Northern Ireland now you might annoy a few, but please don't refer to Ireland as British. It is not part of the UK either.

      About that only thing British you can tag Ireland with is "British Isles", but even that isn't fully reconised in Ireland (despite it being only a geographical reference).

    • Re:Nationality (Score:3, Informative)

      by jeremyp (130771)
      I came to the conclusion that the article really was talking about England since the National Health Service is organised by country i.e. the English NHS, Scottish NHS and Welsh NHS (I think) are all accountable to different governing instutions.
  • by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:04AM (#15252205) Homepage


    "Americans reported twice the rate of diabetes compared to the English, 12.5 percent versus 6 percent. For high blood pressure, it was 42 percent for Americans versus 34 percent for the English; cancer showed up in 9.5 percent of Americans compared to 5.5 percent of the English."

    I am dutch, but have been to the states a lot as my parents have lived there on several occasions. My impressions:

    Higher diabetes rates could well be explained by the large amounts of sugar in lots of food products in America. Even the bread was very sweet to my senses, let alone the rediculous amounts of soft drinks consumed( "would you like a refill for that half-a-litre of coke you just drained?" ).

    Higher blood pressure: higher work stress. I don't think I need expand on this, it's a well known fact that Americans work more and have less holidays/vacations.

    Also less physical exercise will not help either conditions.

    But the higher cancer rates quite baffle me. Strange stuff.
  • by JollyFinn (267972) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:21AM (#15252283)
    But which has less healthcare costs per kg of bodyweight!!!!
  • by SoupIsGood Food (1179) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:24AM (#15252297)
    Y'know, I get the feeling I'd do a lot better with my career if I were to strike out on my own as an independent consultant or by founding a small start-up. The problem is, I have a health condition that requires a trip to the emergency room once every few years, and some seriously expensive medicine to keep it under control. There is no way in hell I can find affordable health insurance on my own, and I can't afford the enormous cost of an ER trip out-of-pocket, or the couple hundred bucks per-month in medication while I'm in the "Eat ramen, max out the credit cards and work out of the garage" phase any solo gig or small company goes through for the first year or so.

    Even if I didn't have the health condition, and were fit as a fiddle, I'd be doing the equivalent of driving without car insurance. I'm one serious traffic accident or cancerous tumor away from financial ruin if I don't have healthcare.

    So, I turn down all kinds of consulting gigs, and leaf wistfully through my file of business plans, and wonder, do I love my country more than I love my career? I'm poorer and less fulfilled by living in a country without a single-payer system. I'm dependent on a corporate benefits package, and unable to pursue the American Dream.

    I could emigrate to New Zealand in a heartbeat, as they're looking for tech workers there and would put me on an immigration fast-track. I really like Montreal and Halifax, too... but I'm a New Englander at heart, and I would like to stay where I feel I belong, where all my family and freinds are.

    Now I find out that even with a company-funded HMO, I'm not as healthy, either. I mean. what the hell am I getting for my healthcare dollar? It's a serious chunk of change out of my paycheck and my employer's operating budget, and an expense that gets more and more and more expensive every year without returning much in the way of improvement in quality of service or quality of life. As far as I can tell, I'm just paying to fund Washington lobbyists and golden parachute accounts for HMO and Big Pharma execs.

    I think it's time to put to rest the United State's overpriced, poorly managed and underperforming healthcare system, and join the rest of the civilized worl in the 21st century.

  • Strange Result (Score:5, Interesting)

    by praksys (246544) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:26AM (#15252306) Homepage
    Averege expected life spans for the US and the UK are nearly identical, and the average expected life span for non-hispanic white Americans is considrerably better than the UK average. So what does this study mean?

    (1) Being more sick more often won't actually make a difference to how long you can expect to live? Sounds implausible.
    (2) Americans get sick more often but their health care is better so they live just as long or longer? Sounds more plausible, although it seems like too much of a coincidence that better healthcare is almost exactly balancing worse health.
    (3) Maybe better access to health care in the US results in a higher rate of diagnosis, rather than a higher rate of illness? That would explain the nearly identical lifespan, but only if the better access to healthcare makes little difference to lifespan.
    (4) A difference in medical culture, where doctors in the US are more likely to diagnose and attempt to treat problems that doctors in the UK would just tell their patients to live with? I know that psychiatrists and psychologists in the US are very quick to diagnose and prescribe drugs compared to Japan or New Zealand (the other two countries that I am familiar with). Maybe there is something similar going on with the medical profession in general.
  • by GreatDrok (684119) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:26AM (#15252307) Journal
    The fundamental problem in large parts of the US is that people spend far to little time walking anywhere compared with the UK. Also, it is often difficult to find good quality food amid all the wasteland of fast food joints. I actually ate less than I do in the UK when I was last in the US because the food was so awful. I'm not claiming the UK has great food but you guys have it much worse. Portions are too large and the food is too greasy. Worse, when you are on a budget this high calorie/low nutrition junk food ends up being attractive.

    Add the rotten food to the car culture and you have a disaster. The UK is sure to follow this trend although it is much easier here to live close enough to work that you don't have to drive (I cycle). Just 30 mins exercise a day would make a world of difference (I try to get an hour in) and there is no reason why you should pay to get it at a gym. Heck, even if you do drive try parking 15-30 mins walk away from work and go the rest of the way in on foot. When I do have to use my car I do that and I still get in quicker than I would if I tried to drive the last couple of miles.
  • by JollyFinn (267972) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:34AM (#15252343)
    The combination of following...

    These are mentioned in article but not enough to explain it entirely.
    Obesity.
    Unhealthy food.
    Lack of exercise.
    Stress.

    These are not mentioned in the article...

    Air pollution from cars and power plants.
    Chemicals that can cause health problems, dumped to environment getting to people.

    Look at the cancer rate its double in US, so there must be something that causes that problem. And its probably the attitude towards environment biting back. When nobody cares if they pollute their neighbours habitat the result is that all get pollution in their environment. And in the end just like wild animals we humans get affected by the pollution we put in our environment, and we all get some health problems because of that.
  • How sick? (Score:5, Funny)

    by caluml (551744) <slashdot AT spam ... OT calum DOT org> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:46AM (#15252392) Homepage
    American employee: Hello Boss, I can't come into work today. I'm seriously sick.
    American employer: Oh, how sick?
    American employee: Well, I'm in bed with my sister.
  • by tinkerton (199273) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:54AM (#15252416)
    this means the weak are effectively being weeded out, which will in the end lead to a stronger, conservative America!

    the sad thing is, I have to state explicitly that I'm being sarcastic here...
  • by Quirk (36086) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:57AM (#15252427) Homepage Journal
    The U.K. like Canada and much of Europe has a temperate climate. The U.S. on the other hand has a range in cliimate from temperate to near tropical.

    The recent influx of diseases like West Nile disease suggests a warmer north is facilitating the spread of tropical diseases. I believe there's a suggestion that tropical climates or climates with extended warm seasons and no freezing winters breed a greater diversity of diseases and disease carrying hosts. Heat is also a stress factor and can complicate bad air conditions.

    It would be interesting to see the demographics broken down between the northern U.S. and the far south.

    just my loose change

  • by silasthehobbit (626391) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:26AM (#15252549)
    I was reading this report on the BBC website earlier today, and I thought then that there is always the possibility that there is a flaw in the study method itself. As the study looks at self-reported health issues, you could also draw the conclusion that people in the US are more aware of health problems than the British.

    I'm British and I haven't been to the doctors in about five years. I know several people who aren't even registered with doctors. No-one I know of my age (36) has had tests for prostate cancer, checked themselves for testicular cancer or even has regular annual check-ups.

    There's a possibility, IMHO, that relying on self-reporting of illness would produce this kind of result in the older generation of Brits, as they're still following the "just get on with life and don't bother the doctors" mentality of those who grew up in the aftermath of WWII.

    My mother had a lot of pain in her lower back for years - when I eventually persuaded her to go to the doctors he got her to go to hospital. They did a scan of her lower back - nothing wrong with it - but noticed something wrong with one of her kidneys (it had never grown from when she was a child). So they took another scan higher up to have a better look at that. Then noticed something wrong with her liver. So they took another scan higher up and saw that she had severe cancer of the liver (despite her being a non-smoker and a very light drinker). She died about 6 weeks later.

    She would never have thought of getting either her kidneys or her liver checked out. If she had then maybe she would still be alive. But, like so many people from her (and her parents) generation going to the doctor was only something you avoided as you didn't like to bother him/her.

    As usual, your views may vary.

    --
    silas
  • It's all about Sleep (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tsu doh nimh (609154) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @09:35AM (#15253344)
    Americans burn the candle at both ends far too much, and don't get nearly enough sleep. One of the biggest contributors to all kinds of illness, disease, and the ability to properly recover from both is the lack of sleep.
  • by Morinaga (857587) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @09:38AM (#15253364)
    The great thing about this discussion is that there's no stereotyping nor unsubstantiated claims of fact going on here.
  • by Spinlock_1977 (777598) <{Spinlock_1977} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @10:20AM (#15253644) Journal
    I stopped eating man-made food on in January, when I weighed 215 pounds. I now weigh 185 pounds, and feel like I'm 35 instead off 75 (I'm actually 45). The relentless drive of market forces has caused food manufactures to squeeze every last penny out of their operations - replacing "real" ingredients with chemicals for cost reasons as they go.

    You're not eating what you ate 20 years ago - that's no longer available. And that's why America is getting fatter and sicker faster than any other nation.
    • by RexRhino (769423) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:28AM (#15254190)
      Don't blame "market forces" for people's bad habits. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole ingredients, and healthy foods have never been easier or cheaper to get in history. I am a vegetarian, so I hardly eat pre-packaged food (most of it has animal products), and I can tell you a healthy, all-natural, home-cooked gourmet meal is probably half the price of a pre-packaged food item.

      People eat crap, because people LIKE crap, and they are too lazy to stop. It isn't the fault of "market forces" that people eat crap, because the market has made it cheaper and easier than ever before to eat healthy.
  • by RobinH (124750) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @10:57AM (#15253931) Homepage
    I was in Cuba a couple years ago and although they are very poor (everyone makes about $13 US per month) they were very very friendly and looked happy and healthy. They have highly trained doctors and other professionals.

    So, I get myself on Google and discover that Cubans have a longer life expectancy than Americans. Well, that shocked me.

    This is a place where I can't drink the water, and the beef looked pretty scary. It's certainly possible that the more expensive stuff we have available to us (more food, more highly processed food), the worse our health could be. I read once that in Rome the rich people had plumbing with lead pipes (it was a luxury) but it ended up killing them faster from lead poisoning. It's possible something similar is happening to us in industrialized nations right now.

The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters. -- Jean-Paul Kauffmann

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